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Morocco – Marrakesh, Sahara Desert & Essaouira – Exclusively Solos

9days from
£2,176*per person

Overview

Mint tea and merchant routes

Traverse ancient merchant routes, ramble around traditional kasbahs, and drink mint tea in the heart of botanical gardens alongside fellow solo travellers. Follow in the footsteps of Berber tribes along the ancient merchant routes, from the shadows of the Atlas Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean coastline. Begin your adventure with a visit to the iconic Ait Ben Haddou kasbah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has served as a backdrop for numerous films and TV series. In the company of like-minded explorers, wander within the mudbrick walls and amongst the alleys of this historic village. Your journey continues to Ouarzazate, known as the ‘Gateway to the Sahara’. En route to Zagora, pause in Agdz, a serene palm oasis nestled amidst the arid desert. Upon reaching Zagora, immerse yourself in its unique architecture and venture into the Draa Valley, where ancient kasbahs and palm groves adorn the landscape. Next on your itinerary is Tamegrout, a nearby village renowned for its Quranic library, one of Morocco's oldest, and its traditional pottery craftsmanship. Savour a homemade lunch of local dishes, and as the sun sets, embark on an exhilarating 4WD adventure across the Sahara Dunes. Spend time in the ‘Red City’, Marrakesh, discovering its medina, bustling souks, opulent palaces and intricate mosques during a guided tour. Embrace leisurely moments to further explore Marrakesh at your own pace, perhaps visiting the Saadian Tombs, Jardin Majorelle, and the Yves Saint Laurent Museum. Finally, venture to the port city of Essaouira, where you'll be enthralled by its coastal charm, thriving art scene, and history of argan oil production.

Itinerary

  • You’ll land in Marrakesh, Morocco’s fourth-largest city and be met at the airport by your friendly, local tour manager. A transfer will then take you and your fellow solo travellers to the first hotel, where you can check in and get settled. In the evening, you’ll join the group for a welcome meeting and drinks before sitting down to dinner, the perfect chance to get to know each other.
  • After breakfast, you’ll check out of the hotel and journey on a scenic drive through dramatic Tizi n'Tichka, a high mountain pass in the Atlas Mountains. You’ll then arrive at the most famous kasbah (fortified village) in the country and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ait Ben Haddou. Known for its well-preserved examples of Moroccan earthen clay architecture, this iconic kasbah encompasses several interconnected buildings and is ringed by high walls, which were designed for protection against external threats and the harsh desert climate. This historical site of mudbrick buildings has also been featured in several well-known movies and TV series, including Lawrence of Arabia, The Jewel of the Nile, Gladiator, and Game of Thrones. There’ll be some free time to explore the narrow alleys, take in the views of the surrounding desert landscape and have lunch on your own account. You can choose to join the women-only cooperative for a traditional homemade lunch – all the profits here are donated to women’s projects in the village. Your tour manager will then lead you around the kasbah on a guided tour, so you can learn more about its past, observe the life of the remaining Berber villagers, and climb up to the fortress to look out over the old town. Following this excursion, the group will continue on to Ouarzazate, known as the ‘Gateway to the Sahara’. This town is also a popular film-making location, and your hotel for the night is positioned next to the Atlas Film Studios. Once you’ve freshened up, you can join the other fellow travellers for dinner.
  • When you’ve had breakfast and checked out, you’ll board the coach for another drive towards the village of Zagora. You can sit back and take in the scenery while travelling along the ancient merchant route, which connects Marrakesh to Timbuktu, and helped merchants exchange goods across the Sahara. On the way, you’ll call at Agdz, set in the Draa Valley region, a lush palm oasis bounded by arid desert terrain. You can wander around its kasbah of mud architecture and main square, as well as see its lively date market – dates are a significant agricultural product of the region. The coach will then keep travelling to Zagora, passing by several Berber villages and the palm groves that line Morocco’s longest river, the Draa. Later in the day, you’ll arrive at Zagora and check in at your hotel, traditional riad-style accommodation. Get settled in and then venture with your tour manager for a guided walk through the Draa Valley, learning about the importance of the Draa River, which provides a vital water source for the agriculture. As you stroll, you’ll also see a collection of well-preserved ancient kasbahs, still home to local residents, rows of palm groves, and desert terrain. Dinner will be enjoyed back at the hotel’s restaurant.
  • Following breakfast, you’ll embark on a guided tour of Zagora, allowing you to experience more of this area and gain insight into local Berber culture. You’ll follow your guide through the bustling souks, admire the unique architecture and colourful street art and visit the Zagora sign that humorously indicates the distance to Timbuktu in Mali. Next, you’ll travel to the nearby village of Tamegrout, known for its religious and cultural significance, as well as its famous Quranic library, considered one of the oldest in Morocco. You’ll start with a visit to this ancient library, which houses a collection of handwritten Quranic manuscripts and Islamic texts that date back centuries (subject to unregulated opening times). The religious complex, Zaouia Naciriya, is located next door and includes a mosque, a madrasa (Islamic school), and the mausoleum of a prominent Moroccan family. This village also produces a traditional type of green pottery, Tamegroute potter, which is made using locally sourced minerals. You’ll be able to watch artisans at work in the assortment of pottery workshops before sitting down to a homemade lunch. Featuring a traditional dish of onions and tomatoes stuffed in bread, alongside salad and tea, this meal will offer another glimpse into Berber life. As the sun begins to set, you’ll board a 4WD and venture across the dunes of the Sahara Desert to Oulad Driss, another Berber mudbrick village, observing the surrounding landscape transforming into various shades. In the evening, you’ll return to the hotel to have dinner and relax.
  • You’ll check out of the hotel after breakfast and traverse the winding roads through the Atlas Mountains to Marrakesh, often referred to as the ‘Red City’ because of its distinctive ruby-coloured sandstone buildings. Once you’ve arrived and checked into the same hotel as your first night, the afternoon will be free to do some discovering on your own. Perhaps head for atmospheric Djemaa el-Fna, the city’s main square lined with food stalls, street performers and vendors, or meander around the UNESCO-listed medina. Finding a street-side café to sip on a Moroccan mint tea and sample a pastilla (a sweet and savoury pastry) is also recommended. As night falls, you can head back to the hotel for dinner.
  • Fuel up on breakfast as you head out into the heart of the city on an enlightening guided tour today. First, you’ll make your way into the old medina, with its snaking streets, traditional souks and historic landmarks. Your tour manager will then take you to Koutoubia Mosque, the largest in Marrakesh, with a soaring minaret that dominates the skyline. This place of worship and the city’s most famous landmark is built in a distinctive North African Islamic architectural style, with red sandstone and intricate geometric patterns. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter, but you can still admire its impressive design from the outside. The tour will then continue on to bustling Djemaa el-Fna, and those who didn’t visit this square yesterday can spend some time here, marvelling at the street theatre, snake charmers, and live musical performances. A cup of freshly squeezed orange juice from a local vendor can be enjoyed as you take it all in. You’ll have the rest of the day to survey the city on your own, perhaps ticking off anything on your wish-list. The Saadian Tombs, which house the tombs of the Saadian dynasty in opulent chambers are worth a visit, as is Jardin Majorelle, a landscaped expanse of botanical plants created by the French artist, Jacques Majorelle and later owned by the fashion designer, Yves Saint Laurent. Throughout the grounds, striking cobalt buildings, painted in a shade known as ‘Majorelle blue’ can be seen along with several water features, and a diverse assortment of rare plant species. In the centre lies the Musée Berbère, showcasing Berber artiefacts, textiles and art. Nearby, you’ll find the Yves Saint Laurent Museum, which displays over 7,000 garments and 30,000 accessories from Saint Laurent's personal collections. Another sanctuary away from the bustle is Le Jardin Secret, a hidden palace complex of traditional Islamic gardens. Dating back to the 16th century and originally created as a private residence, this site is now open to the public. You can stroll around its immense plant collection, trickling fountains, decked in tilework and climb the elevated terraces to gaze across Marrakesh and the Atlas Mountains in the distance. When you’ve completed your day of exploring, dinner will be served at the hotel.
  • You’ll pack your bags and have breakfast before leaving Marrakesh and journeying to the port city of Essaouira on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast. Flanked by 18th-century ramparts, decked with old brass canyons, its medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is made up of white-washed buildings with blue accents. An ocean-facing hotel, with access to a private beach, will be your home for the last two nights. Upon check in, you can unwind, perhaps grabbing a drink on the terrace, or spending some time in the on-site hammam, an authentic Moroccan experience. Alternatively, you can join a women-led workshop at a cooperative and learn about the production of local Argan oil products. The region around Essaouira is known for its argan trees and its important role in argan oil production. You’ll learn about the traditional method of argan oil extraction from the nuts of an argan tree, the work many local women do during this process, and the significance of it in Moroccan culture. Afterwards, you can purchase some of the culinary and cosmetic products to take home. Dinner will be enjoyed back at the hotel this evening.
  • It’s your last day, and you’ll have the opportunity to do some sightseeing at your own pace. Perhaps, return to the medina, browsing its warren of tapered streets and art galleries, displaying local and international paintings, sculptures, and photography. Skala de la Ville, the seafront bastion provides an impressive vista, and you can watch the fishermen in action from the port while enjoying fresh seafood dishes at one of the restaurants – try and stick around for the fish auction in the afternoon of bartering over the catch of the day. If you’d like to buy a few, final souvenirs, the souks in Essaouira are not as hectic as those in Marrakesh, and you can find an array of artisanal products, like spices, textiles and woodwork. A stroll across the city’s main sandy beach is another nice way to savour the day, and with its strong winds, you’ll notice many windsurfers and kiteboarders amongst the waves. You’ll join your fellow travellers for a farewell dinner tonight, no doubt sharing stories from the week over a delicious meal.
  • Relish your final breakfast before being transferred back to Marrakesh for your flight to the UK.

What's Included

Holiday Highlights

  • Journey into the Atlas Mountains to one of Morocco’s most well-known kasbahs, Ait Ben Haddou
  • Discover Ouarzazate, the ‘Gateway to the Sahara’ and a popular film-making location
  • Call at Agdz, a lush palm oasis bounded by arid desert terrain, popular for its date market
  • Walk through the Draa Valley, home to ancient kasbahs and rows of palm groves
  • Gain insight into the culture of local Berber tribes and admire the architecture in Zagora
  • Travel to Tamegrout, famed for its Quranic library, considered one of the oldest in Morocco, and pottery production
  • Relish a homemade lunch of traditional dishes while visiting Tamegroute
  • Venture across the Sahara Dunes on a 4WD to the village of Oulad Driss at sunset
  • Set off on a guided tour of Marrakesh, the ‘Red City’, taking in its old medina, souks, palaces and mosques
  • Embrace free time to explore Marrakesh, perhaps surveying the Saadian Tombs, Jardin Majorelle and the Yves Saint Laurent Museum
  • Explore the port city of Essaouira, with its sea-facing ramparts and sandy beaches
  • Choose to visit a women-led argan oil workshop, learning about the production process and the significance of it in the local culture

Our Price Includes

  • Eight nights’ accommodation in Marrakesh (3 nights), Ouarzazate (1), Zagora (2), and Essaouira (2)
  • Eight breakfasts, one lunch and eight dinners, including a welcome drink and dinner and a farewell dinner
  • Visit to Ait Ben Haddou and Taourir
  • Visit to Agdz and guided walk through the Draa Valley
  • Tour of Zagora, visit to Tamegrout, and a 4WD drive in the Sahara to Oulad Driss
  • Tour of Marrakesh
  • Return flights to Marrakesh
  • Comfortable, air-conditioned coach travel throughout
  • Fully escorted by friendly, experienced tour managers
  • During December, an astronomer will be present for the Geminids meteor shower
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Dates and Prices

 
November 2024
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Departure Airport:
London Gatwick (LGW)

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Price from:£2,176
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Other Information

Holiday code

N2536

Holiday provided by Newmarket Holidays

BOOK WITH CONFIDENCE: This holiday is sold and operated by Newmarket Holidays (ABTOT 5509, ATOL 2325, ABTA V7812), you can be 100% sure that your money is safe.

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